President Joe Biden will nominate Democrat Karen J. Hedlund, current Vice President and National Rail Strategy Advisor at WSP USA and former Federal Railroad Administration Deputy Administrator, to replace Republican Ann Begeman on the Surface Transportation Board.
Begeman’s term expired Dec. 31, 2020, and by statute she could have remained up to 12 months in holdover status, until Dec. 31, 2021. She served two five-year terms at the STB, and was Acting Chair and Chair. She was replaced as Chair by President Biden with Democrat Marty Oberman on Jan. 21, 2021. STB members are limited to two five-year terms by statute.
Begeman reverted to member status, allowing the STB to retain its full complement of five members, a number set by the 2015 Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act. (She is also a 2020 Railway Age Women in Rail award recipient.)
A formal nomination for Hedlund is next. “Then, the Senate Commerce Committee must schedule a confirmation hearing,” notes Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner. “Following will be a mark-up during which the Committee votes whether to recommend her nomination. If it does, her name goes to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for his determination of when to move her name to the Senate floor for a formal confirmation vote. It could easily be June or July before Hedlund is confirmed.”
In January 2015, following her tenue at FRA, Hedlund joined WSP USA (then Parsons Brinckerhoff). She has worked with federal, state and local transportation agencies as well as private companies to facilitate financing and development of transportation projects through P3s. She served as strategic advisor on a number of WSP rail projects across the U.S., including Amtrak’s Gateway Program, O’Hare Express Rail and the California High-Speed Rail Program, and is a leader of peer-to-peer exchanges with state and local municipal officials through the Build America Transportation Investment Center Institute on various topics including alternative delivery, P3s and station area development and financing.
Hedlund was appointed Deputy FRA Administrator in November 2011, after serving as the agency’s Chief Counsel from June 2010. During her tenure, she led the FRA’s $12 billion high speed rail grant program, including $3 billion of investments in the California High Speed Rail Program, and $3 billion in improvements to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. She advised on FRA-funded multi-state locomotive and passenger equipment purchases, and on California High Speed Rail and Amtrak next-generation trainset procurements, including consideration of Buy America waiver requests for non-domestic equipment manufacturers.
Hedlund also oversaw the FRA’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Finance (RRIF) program, including review of loan requests to finance new passenger rail systems from Las Vegas to California and from Miami to Orlando as well as implementation of Positive Train Control systems for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.
Hedlund served as Chief Counsel of the Federal Highway Administration in 2009-2010, where she directed a legal staff in the implementation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants to all 50 states. Before joining the federal government, she was a partner in the law firms Nossaman, LLP; Skadden Arps; and Mayer Brown.
Hedlund led the legal advisory team on P3 projects such as the Silver Line extension of the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system; the Port of Miami Tunnel; the T-REX light rail in Denver; the Triangle Expressway in North Carolina; and Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey.
Hedlund served on the board of Moynihan Station Development Corp. in New York City, which redeveloped the James A. Farley Post Office Building into a new rail station for Amtrak and a mixed-use development. She also previously served as a board member of Union Station Development Corp. in Washington, D.C. She was also a member of the Credit Council of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the department’s credit programs.
Hedlund received a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.
“RSI and our members congratulate Karen Hedlund on being nominated by President Biden to serve as a member of the Surface Transportation Board,” said Nicole Brewin, Senior Vice President of Government & Public Affairs for the Railway Supply Institute. “Karen brings decades of experience to the role managing and advising on major passenger and freight rail projects across the United States. Her expertise working collaboratively at the federal, state, and local level will make her a valuable asset to the STB.”